July Album of the Month
(5 / 5)
A two year wait for veteran US blues man Seasick Steve’s 10th album, “Love & Peace” which drops towards the end of July 2020. Music Republic Magazine’s July album of the month.
Steve on guitars and vocals, accompanied by his regular drummer Dan Magnusson. This is as stripped back as it gets, but it doesn’t miss out on anything in the sound. Some steamy harmonica licks on a few tracks, add value.
A dozen tracks, the title cut opens proceedings. Six minutes of raw groove and blues boogie with trademark Seasick sizzling slide guitar. Live this sucker will kick ass….He pleads for us to “stop the hatred now and get back to love and peace”. He adds: “It’s all got so divided, there’s no middle ground”. Amen to that.
“Regular Man” slows things down, and slings in some grunged-up gob iron, or harmonica to you, from cracking Manchester-based player Malcolm Arison (aka Hank Williamson of German band The BossHoss), on a John Lee Hooker-style, mid-tempo blues-folk cut. Nice job.
Steve sings, with utter conviction, the line: “I ain’t gonna let this fame I’ve found turn my head around, I’m still the same old boy, got my feet on the ground. I’m a regular man ’til the day I die”.
I have met the man himself twice, and I can say he came across to me as a genuinely down-to-earth decent guy, who finds the attention he gets a tad overwhelming and bewildering. That bottle of Jack he carries around with him, perhaps his comfort blanket!
The laid back “I Will Do For You” harks back to slow bluesy 70s rock, and Cream/Hendrix days. “Clock is Running” is one of the four tracks lifted from the album for singles, along with the title cut, the stripped down, back porch folk-blues “Carni Days” and the latest single, “Church Of Me”. “Toes In The Mud” goes back to the infectious groove, stomp and feel of his best work across the 10 albums released so far.
“My Woman” is a superb slow-burn moody blues number and the electric guitar cuts through like a mother…..It sounds like this is a late night smoky Chicago blues joint back in the 60s or 70s, a who’s who of blues artists and musicians in the room whooping and a hollering to spur Steve on.
A lesson for all young blues guitar slingers who play at 100MPH and 70 notes a minute. Steve knows, it’s all about the feel and the space. Not how clever you are on the fretboard.
“Ain’t Nothing Like The Boogie” has a country-blues flavour to it. Swampy Tony Joe White vibes. Some great harmonica licks from the Brit’. But they have messed about with Steve’s vocal sound a tad…..
Not sure that some of the vocal treatment and polishing on some of the tracks adds any value. If you have raw razor blade guitar and Steve’s aggressive growl of a vocal, to then add shed loads of reverb and “production” via digital technology, is gilding the lily and can spoil the pot.
We want to hear him on record as we do live on stage, and having seen him a few times from the pit shooting pictures at festivals, trust me his stage sound will rip your liver out. So producers and engineers, just stop it!
“Travelling Man” felt like a work in progress and maybe even the wrong tempo, for me. “Ready Or Not” weaves together under-stated harmonica and guitar on a very nice mid-tempo ditty.
The final track, “Mercy” has back porch on the cotton plantation flavours. Just Steve’s passionate voice wailing out his plea, “Love have no mercy, ohhh have mercy….”, backed only by his ‘less is more’ acoustic guitar licks on this slow ballad. It’s lovely.
One thing 69-year-old Steve can do in his sleep is nail a groove. Get your feet tapping and your backbone sliding. On previous albums since his debut in 2004, he’s gone down that road much more than on this one, but there is still good light and shade within this material.
(Footnote: Predictive text changed “feet tapping” to “ferret tapping” before I spotted it in editing!!!!). Maybe he’s more melancholic and reflective in these songs; a sign of the trying times.
The word “authentic” is too often bandied about when it comes to describing music artists, and often it doesn’t mean much. But if it means being yourself and not chasing trends or riches, making music for the love and joy of it, and because it is in your blood……
If it means giving a piece of your inner self every time you perform or put out a record, then Steven Gene Wold aka Seasick Steve, is undeniably as authentic as they come.
His music never fails to make me smile and to feel like it is good to be alive. That feeling is much needed in these uncertain and scary times across the entire planet. “Love & Peace” is what we all badly crave. Steve’s got a hefty dose of it ready to dish up, if you want to listen. I do…
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’